Olympians react as U.S. sports events postponed amid protests

Games in NBA, MLB, WNBA, MLS, and WTA tennis postponed following player-led protests and boycotts

By Olympic Channel

A day after games in the NBA, MLS, WNBA, MLB, ATP, and pro tennis were postponed, athletes and officials in a number of sports in the US will meet later on Thursday to discuss the next steps.

Basketball team owners have scheduled a virtual team meeting, after the three Wednesday night NBA playoff matches were called off following athlete-led protests.

The player boycott of the fixtures was in protest over the shooting of Jacob Blake, a black man, by police in Wisconsin last week.

All Thursday matches at the Western & Southern Open tennis tournament have been postponed by the WTA and ATP, after two-time grand slam winning tennis player Naomi Osaka announced on social media that she was pulling out of her semi-final at the US Open warm-up event.

NBA stars lead USA sports boycott

Two-time Olympic gold medallist LeBron James was one of many NBA stars quick to show their support of the postponements on twitter, as the game between his LA Lakers and the Portland Trail Blazers was called off. He tweeted: "WE DEMAND CHANGE. SICK OF IT!"

Game 5 of the Milwaukee Bucks’ series against the Orlando Magic was the first to be postponed, after Bucks players left the pre-match warm-up, and did not emerge again.

Reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo was among the Bucks players leading the protest.

A statement on behalf of the Bucks' owners read: "We fully support our players and the decision they made. Although we did not know beforehand, we would have wholeheartedly agreed with them.

"The only way to bring about change is to shine a light on the racial injustices that are happening in front of us. Our players have done that and we will continue alongside them and demand accountability and change."

Spanish basketball legend Pau Gasol showed his support for his Bucks teammates' stance tweeting, 'Proud of my brothers', while Rio 2016 gold medallist DeMar DeRozan simply wrote 'Respect "bucks!!!'.

London 2012 Olympic champion Kevin Love posted that the NBA was the 'most unified league in the world' in light of the players' decision not to play.

WNBA players united

There were powerful displays of protest in the WNBA basketball league, where fixtures were also postponed.

Players from WNBA team the Washington Mystics arrived for their game wearing T-shirts with Blake's name on the front, and seven marks representing bullet holes on the back.

In baseball, three MLB games were called off after teams decided not to play, along with five MLS matches.

Charles Barkley: It's exhausting being black

Charles Barkley and Scottie Pippen, two key members of the USA's gold medal-winning Dream Team of the Barcelona 1992 Olympics, highlighted paid homage to the Bucks, while also recognising the extra pressure black basketball players endure in the NBA.

Barkley told CNN:

"I've never seen anything like this. You have to give the Milwaukee Bucks a lot of credit, this happened in their home state... it took a lot of courage.

"It's exhausting being black.

"White players have been amazing, but they don't live with the pressure these young black guys are going through every day."

Taking a stance

Since the NBA resumed during the COVID-19 pandemic, and in the wake of social justice protests following the death of George Floyd, players from professional sports leagues around the world have displayed messages of racial equality.

Many players have chosen to take a knee before matches, adopting NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick's protest during the American national anthem four years ago.

Earlier this month, Noah Lyles told Olympic Channel: "I think it’s more of a serious note this year, I got more of a message to prove."

The American sprinter raised a black-gloved fist at the Diamond League athletics season opener in Monaco.

After winning the 200m he wrote the following message on Instagram:

“As athletes it’s hard to show that you love your country and also say that change is needed. This is my way of saying this country is great but it can be better. #blacklivesmatter.”